Most books I’ve read from Christian publishers are “nice.” There are certainly works of fiction (and some non-fiction) where unpleasant subjects are discussed, glossed over, or ultimately left to the imagination, keeping a saccharine perception of the world in G-rated terms. God in a Brothel is not one of those books.
Daniel Walker tells in clear (but not excessively explicit) terms the stories he encountered as a private investigator linked with different organizations around the world who infiltrated sex trafficking rings and freed countless women and children from forced prostitution. Walker, a native of New Zealand, explains different situations he encountered, while peppering the book with facts and figures about the prevalence of this crime against humanity; the stories he tells of his own experience only serve to highlight the massive number of lives lost to these crimes.
Walker, a professed Christian, talks throughout his stories about his reliance on God for support and guidance, and the absolute knowledge that God wants those individuals to be free from slavery in the same way that God wants us to be free from sin. Walker and many who worked with him follow God’s command to care for widows and orphans, to seek out the least and the lost, to free the captives. But he’s also straightforward about the cost of this discipleship, and the way that his own life is forever changed by a four-year tour of duty in these circles.
[Spoiler Alert:] Walker’s life isn’t just changed internally, but instead, the wear and tear of working the circles, and a seemingly innocent encounter leads him to cross lines he never meant to cross. I’m not excusing his actions, but the revelation in the last fifth of the book certainly tells us plenty about his efforts and how much he believes in what he’s doing. Walker set out to free others from the sex trafficking crimes but became a by-product of the system, costing him his marriage. He’d gone so far under and been so far removed from humanity in his own entrance into that world that it swallowed him, albeit momentarily, and tore his life apart.
While Walker has professed redemption for those imprisoned, and to a degree, for those doing the imprisoning, it’s not until the end that we see his struggle with the redemptive works in his own life. Walker has an image of a superhero, one who swoops in and saves the day, and it’s not until he gets to this redemptive arc in his own life that he can see he can never truly be the self-standing superhero, only God can. As a friend of mine says, “You don’t have to be a superhero. You just have to be the little kid who points to the sky and says, ‘Look, there’s Superman!'” Too often, we try to do this on our own, and it’s not until we fail completely that we can see how much we actually need Jesus.
Walker’s tale is a warning to the church about the global threat of the sex trade, and an example to all of us who try to do it on our own. We need each other, and we need Jesus. Without either, all is lost.